Online courses are likely to become the future of education. While some students like the flexibility afforded by taking a course online, others say they say they learn less because they have a hard time engaging with the course materials.
“I really don’t like online classes because I feel like I don’t get as much unique material,” said Lanni Solochek, a student at the University of Wisconsin. “I learn much better with a teacher and specific timeline.”
Indeed, the biggest difference between a classroom and online learning is that online classes are self-guided and the student sets their own pace. According to David Fitzgerald, University of Phoenix Campus Vice President, online education requires the student to engage with the course materials on a higher level. The reason for this, he said is because in a classroom students can get by discussing their points of view, even if they haven’t studied the materials. Not so with online learning.
“Online you really have to have an understanding and a little bit of research to back up what you’re saying. [Instructors] want to know how that relates to the textbook, to articles, to studies that have occurred,” Fitzgerald said.
He also shared that the students best suited to online education seem to be what he referred to as “non-traditional students,” or students who had full-time jobs or had been away from a classroom setting for a while. These students benefit from the flexibility afforded them by the self-paced, online classes.
In addition to the obvious benefit of flexibility that comes along with online learning, Fitzgerald added that mobility is also a big factor. In contrast to a classroom setting where a student would have a set schedule on set days, online courses enable students to complete the class from wherever there is an internet connection.
Jessie Gould, an English student at Northern Arizona University, prefers on campus classes for the face-to-face interaction with the instructor and other students. However, the benefit she saw for online education was the ability to save time commuting to and from campus. “Half my class day is usually taken up by the commute,” she said. “Online classes allow for more studying if you have the time.”
Still, for many students the biggest draw-back is the in-person experience.
“What makes me excited to go to class is the enthusiasm of my professors,” Solochek said. “That I absolutely miss out on with online classes.”
Emily Winginger, a student at ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, said she felt disconnected from her peers. “You are nothing more than a name on a discussion board and therefore you are less likely to network with your peers and establish relationships online.”
Fitzgerald acknowledge that even with online learning, it’s important for students to get to know each other. At the University of Phoenix, students have access to a social network called University Connect, where students can interact with each other and their instructors virtually.
Fitzgerald said there are five keys the advisors at the University of Phoenix tell students:
- Create a system for supporting the balance of school and the rest of your life
- Create a schedule and stick to it
- Use the mobility apps, such as the University Connect
- Be aware of deadlines and know the associated penalties
- Use the social network and know who your classmates are
Ultimately, Fitzgerald said, the student is going to get out of it what they put into it. “It’s really up to the student to create that engagement.”
Learn more about online education at University of Phoenix here.
*Corrections have been made from the original post